Rep. Ilhan Omar Sparks National Conversation

Let’s have an honest talk about money in politics

February 14, 2019

Singling Out Rep. Ilhan Omar

This past week, America turned its focus to freshman member of Congress, Re. Ilhan Omar, for calling out the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC’s) pressure tactics on Capitol Hill. While she is nowhere near the first to give criticism, as a Black Muslim Congresswoman, she was met by a wave of politicians, pundits, and even the President who went on the offensive to silence her. Rep. Omar had aimed to shine a spotlight on the role of money and lobbyists in politics, and in the wake of this exchange, where the GOP leadership’s attempted to equivocate between Rep. Steve King’s white supremacy and her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s opposition to Israeli state policies, she was ultimately successful. Groups that lobby for guns, oil and gas, and tobacco are part of the national conversation on lobbying, and it’s about time that AIPAC joins them.

An Honest Conversation About AIPAC

We need a consistent measure for justice. Palestine has been made taboo, and in the case of AIPAC and Israel, calling legitimate critique biased or prejudiced has been a barrier to the democratic process of good-faith policy debate and oversight. As a result, very important policy conversations are robbed of much-needed nuance and consideration of all interested parties. Criticism of AIPAC is not a criticism of Jewish people, just as criticizing lobbyists for Muslim-majority countries or their policies is not considered Islamophobic. Jewish people are not a monolith, nor are Muslims, or any other group. Attaching their interests with those of AIPAC and, by extension, those of the state of Israel, erases the perspectives of many Jews who sympathize with the plight of Palestinians and all who suffer as a result of Israeli state policy.

Our Broken Political System

The capacity of lobbying groups like AIPAC and the NRA to wield significant influence over politicians needs to be addressed. As long as our elected leaders are beholden to powerful interests, and to those forces and institutions which offer them legitimacy, then we will not be able to engage in a meaningful conversation over Israeli state policy.

Let’s not be intimidated by difficult conversations. We need to keep holding our representatives and government accountable to the American people, not lobbyists.

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